ABC Wednesday 4: R is For...
... RHS Chelsea Flower Show
You'll have to forgive me if I'm a bit scatterbrained today, but my head's still in a whirl after yesterday's wonderful visit to Chelsea with my friend H. This post will be about random thoughts and first impressions. I've got lots of individual cameos and stories to tell you later and unlike other RHS events, there's no way Chelsea can be confined to just one post. I've decided to start with a picture of Luciano Giubbilei's gold medal winning Laurent Perrier garden, not because it's my favourite - it isn't, nor did it win best in show - but I need to look at one of my more tranquil scenes in order to start to make a sense of things.
I can't tell you whether this is a vintage Chelsea or not because this was my first visit and it wouldn't be fair to compare the real thing with my impressions gleaned from TV programmes. I expected it to be far more crowded than it was: tickets were sold out, but I believe member's days like yesterday have slightly fewer tickets allocated. It was easy to see the all the show gardens, except the Courtyard ones, but we members of the good natured crowd (about 3 deep) patiently waited until a convenient gap was found to nip in for a good look. I've been in much more crowded floral marquees too, such as Gardeners' World Live last year, though I don't know whether this was due to fewer exhibitors. We didn't get to see everything, but we did get to see all we planned to see and more, plus there was plenty of time for a chat with exhibitors, designers and some blogging buddies: unfortunately I didn't get to see all of you (especially Little Green Fingers and Constant Gardener whom I knew would be there) - I'm so sorry - next time perhaps?
Some of the gardens were much better in real life than on paper and vice versa - more on that later. There seemed to be more issues-led gardens than usual, though it could be the fewer gardens this year made them stand out a bit more. On the whole I thought a lot of the planting was quite restrained and quite blocky in nature. There wasn't a riot of colour and my overall impression was of white. The plants I noticed most were Libertia, Eremurus, Aquilegias (often in contrasting dark purple and white combinations), Angelica and white Alliums. Whilst most of the gardens were great and thought provoking, none of them made my jaw drop this time.
It was in the Great Pavilion where I was blown away. There was possibly the widest number of flowering months represented in one show for a long time, ranging from Daffodils to Dahlias. I would love to know more about how the growers perform the apparent miracle of stopping and starting growth and flowering in preparation for the show. If the outside was lacking in colour, then here it was in abundance: the exuberance of the Caribbean, the native flora of South Africa, perfect vegetables and a host of flowers of every hue. Some of the exhibits must have been larger than some of the show gardens: the Hilliers stand was absolutely huge for instance.
On my way to London on Monday I was worried I'd be disappointed with my visit. I needn't have: a chance encounter with an exhibitor on the train, plus meeting (and staying) with the lovely Victoria beforehand added to my excitement. The journey home wasn't a let down either as we took an open top bus (or broken bus as I used to call them) from the show to Victoria station. Then on the train home a rather vocal woman (probably having had a few Pimms too many) kept the whole carriage hugely entertained with her opinions of the show, needlepoint, the MP's expenses scandal and private education for her darling Hugo and Sebastian. I got home just after midnight and was so abuzz with everything I'd seen I didn't get to sleep until well after two a.m. this morning. So I'm afraid that's all I can manage for now: there's much, much more to come over the next few days :D
For more Ravishing posts on the letter R, do visit the ABC Wednesday blog.